Class Notes: New ‘Smartpen’ technology almost like cloning our teachers

JOE LANDON

What’s cool at school? Lots of stuff is the easy answer.

We’re proud to be viewed as a leader in the state of Florida when it comes to technology. We have more than 27,000 networked computers in use district-wide. And we enjoy a 2.2-to-1 student-to-computer ratio, said to be among the best in Florida. Technology folks from other Florida districts visit us to observe how were are using today’s technology.

Now here in the district, when we speak about “IT” being involved with something, it’s our Instructional Technology folks that we’re talking about.

This week, I want to tell you about some of the newest technology in use in our schools — technology that is in place to enhance the teaching and learning environment. It’s a “Livescribe Smartpen.” One of the best things about it is, it’s relatively inexpensive and available almost anywhere. It is even something that you or I can buy. Those who know say this is by far the best example of how 21st century technologies are changing the face of education.

So, how does the Livescribe Smartpen work? Simply put, the Smartpen records everything you write as well as everything you say, and links it all to what’s called “interactive paper.” To review a lesson, just click on the paper with your Smartpen and you’ll magically return to what was written or said at the moment it was written or said. Plus, since this is a digital file, you can upload it to a website, or send it as an e-mail. When it’s posted online, students will see each pen stroke and hear the lesson as it was originally presented. A student struggling with a math problem, for example, can use the Smartpen to return to the lesson in which the teacher showed students how to solve the problem — perfect for students who benefit from repeated instruction, and also good for those who were absent when the original lesson was delivered. Moms and dads get the chance to hear the same instruction as their children received.

Struggling readers and writers can benefit from the Smartpen as well. Since you can record audio on the paper, you can include recorded narrations, explanations, or supported reading anywhere you can paste a little piece of paper. This is especially helpful for our English Language Learners, and some students in the Exceptional Student Education program.

The technology is relatively new to the district. It’s been piloted in a few schools already and more are coming on board. I guess you could say the Livescribe Spartpen is the closest thing to cloning a teacher. In any case, it’s just one example of what’s cool in school.

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